Further to the last entry about practice. There is an interesting new book out by Malcolm Gladwell (What makes a genius?) I read an extract in a Sunday paper recently and it told of a music academy in which they ranked students into three groups - star soloists, good players and recreational players - when they examined these groups they found that the reason for the quality differences was a simple one - the students in the top group practised considerably more than anyone else - furthermore the professors said there were no “naturals” people who could coast on little practice , and there were no ‘grinders”-  ones who worked hard but saw little benefit.
Taking this across to visual art. It seems madness or perhaps egotistical to assume that an artist reaches an intellectual and practical level of competence ( a plateau if you will ) to enable and facilitate high level art making and discourse.
Why is an artist any different to a sportsman, a musician, a bricklayer etc etc? In the film the Hustler, Fast Eddy sits on the riverbank and asks his girl if she thinks he’s a loser - he then eulogises how “anything can be great” ,.. it's like “a jockey -he says- with all that power, but he has to know when to let it go”.
To avoid comment about practice is to put a human being into a lofty position, when we are surely a little lower down the pecking order - cosmic dust after all. To make art,  especially painting,  is to ‘get in the way of the light’, organise and control colour, reshape this light and reflect it  - as colour - back as whole as it arrived. This is, I believe, the objective goal of painting though I have not heard it stated. It would mean a complete refocus of appraisal, and would also take the 'intent' - often an apologetic safety net - out of the equation. Think of a Matisse drawing - the white page returns to its whiteness (he states this as his ambition quite clearly) in spite of or rather because of the arrangement of his lines. This level of achievement was produced after considerable time and energy - do people think he woke up one morning and thought today I’ll do some line drawings and hey presto , there we are. We artists can be lazy - we should always question our practice, put in many hours doing the unfashionable stuff, the grey, solitary grafting stuff of developing our technique)   Think about Hokusai's comments about understanding of nature - the time line he uses is in decades,  not months, (or shows). To be good takes considerable time. Anthony Burgess once said that creativity should be surrounded by a ring of fire.
I have only heard Ken Noland , amongst the higher profile artists talk about practice. It seems more than a co-incidence that he is one artist who can handle paint at a level beyond the majority. Day to day, hour after hour, practice. That is it. We can intellectualise as much as we want but until we face up to this simple fact our art will remain as decadent as it is today.
Our major institutions much prefer to champion art that they can expound upon on an equal footing i.e. the work is within their conceptual and emotional grasp. This country finds it difficult to celebrate work that has the highest visual achievement - where are the Noland paintings from the last 30 years in the Tate, or the Olitskis for that matter. We never see a Louis yet we bump into a Bacon at every turn - the seedy glamour of his work often carries more interest that the visual content which has an academic finish to the surface.
The saddest thing though is how art is taught in schools - fitting in with a blueprint that fits all lessons. The future, as viewed from present consideration,  seems relatively bleak for visual art. We are told it is a visual world - not so; we are drowning in imagery - it is a literal world (and standards of literacy are plummeting too). Images that have meaning or 'nihilisticly' no meaning - which is the same thing but at the other end of the axis.
It was ever thus though; For every Rembrandt, there are thousands of ‘playing card’ artists. Cézanne could only exhibit in a shop and instead it was Carrière (who?) that was the main artist of his day.
As Gary Player famously said when his opponent said how lucky he was - “It’s funny the harder I practise, the luckier I get”.